Canberra’s planned acquisition of 29 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters has received the blessings of the US Department of State.

The total potential cost of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal is $3.5 billion, according to a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification.

Apache Australia AH-64E

Source: Boeing Australia

An artist’s rendering of the AH-64E in Australian army livery

In addition to the 29 Apaches, the package includes a range of sensors, weapons, and services pertinent to the acquisition.

In January, Australian defence minister Linda Reynolds announced that the AH-64E had triumphed in Australia’s Project Land 4503 requirement for a new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter to replace the Australian army’s 22 Airbus Helicopters Tigers.

A key element in the FMS package are 16 Northrop Grumman APG-78 Longbow fire control radars (FCR). According to Northrop, the APG-78 has both ground target and a new maritime targeting mode.

“The FCR performs wide area search, precise detection, location and classification of up to 256 simultaneous moving and stationary targets,” says Northrop.

“From these, the system then prioritises the top 16 targets for immediate evaluation and, if desired, engagement by the aircrew. This system enables the potent Apache attack helicopter to prosecute targets day or night, in adverse weather and obscured conditions.”

Also included in the package are 85 Lockheed Martin AGM-11R Hellfire missiles, and 2,000 guidance sections for the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, which provides the Hydra 70 rocket with a precision strike capability.

“The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats, and will enhance interoperability with US forces and other allied forces,” says DSCA.

“Australia will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its homeland defence and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing these Apache aircraft into its armed forces.”

In the Land 4503 deal, the Apache saw off competition from an upgrade for the Tiger, as well as the Bell AH-1Z Viper.

“The AH-64E Apache provides Australia with a low-risk, fully-integrated, battle-proven capability which is interoperable with Australia’s key allies,” said Reynolds in January.

“It is supported by an active production line and a US Army modernisation plan through the late 2040s, thereby ensuring the platform remains the leading attack reconnaissance capability through 2050 and beyond.”